Trix of the Trade: Part II - For Want of a Hat
A few minutes later, Trixie was sitting on the floor of Leechcraft's caravan, as comfortable as she could get on the threadbare carpet. Leechcraft had hung up his hat and was pouring them two stiff drinks (whilst Equestrian ponies didn't drink alcohol, they tended to create very strong flavoured punches and cordials). He topped off the syrupy green drink with a sprig of fresh mint, and carefully picked up the tray in his mouth. Before he had a chance to put it down, however, Trixie had already levitated her drink off the tray. He sat the tray on a small, rickety stool, and took a sip of the cordial, sighing. Trixie decided it wasn't really to her taste and placed it down on the floor, subtly pushing it aside.
They sat in silence for a few moments, Leechcraft examining the blue unicorn with a calculating look in his eye, and Trixie doing much the same to the dark grey earth pony and his caravan. She was first to break the silence.
"You can't have always sold fake produce," She began, feigning disinterest and glancing around the sparsely decorated caravan, "... or you'd have been run out of Equestria long ago. I imagine then, that you've fallen on hard times, and you're trying to work your way back up." Levitating the cup again, she forced herself to take another sip of the cordial. Although the strong herbal flavour was too bitter for her, she was thirsty, and was going to take anything she was given. She looked back at Leechcraft. "Well, am I right?"
He finished the last of his cordial. "I'm goin' t'answer that with a question of my own, Miss Trixie." He said, smirking. "You're in exactly the same boat, I'm guessin'. I've been around, an' I can tell you're no Appleloosan. You're too well spoken, fer starters, an' y'carry yerself like a filly showin' off her new saddle. So, if you're here, talkin' t'me, that means y'got nothin' better t'do. Am I right?"
Trixie was caught off-guard by Leechcraft's own conclusions. The momentary flicker of uncertainty was enough to make her lose her concentration, and the cup fell to the ground, spilling the sugary cordial on the caravan floor. Leechcraft grinned broadly, and pulled a hankerchief from his waistcoat pocket with his mouth, tossing it over the spill.
"But yes, missie, you're right. I ain't a cheat. Least, not when I can help it. An' I didn't get this mark for nothin'." Leechcraft motioned his head at the green bottle on his flank. "I run this caravan all across Equestria, y'see. I stock up on supplies when I'm near the Everfree Forest, s'only place I can get half the herbs for my tonics. Then I travel, an' sell all the stuff I make. Thing is, tho', in recent years I jus' can't get as deep into the Forest as I used to, an' I can't find th'right herbs no more. But I gotta live somehow, an' I jus' can't face settlin' down in one place, so I water the stock down, try an' make it last as long as possible."
Trixie had regained her composure, putting on the same haughty tones as before. "But what you were selling out there was junk. Coloured water and apple leaves. Nothing medicinal about it."
"Right again. I've run out of herbs, but I'm still at least a week away from Ponyville, an' I got t'pull this thing by myself." Leechcraft motioned with a hoof at the caravan. "S'not like I can jus' eat grass, either. Round these parts you're lucky t'find a single blade, let alone a patch big enough t'eat."
Trixie sat in silence for a few moments. She was certainly no stranger to the difficulties of the travelling life herself, although she, too, could never settle down in one place. She knew, however, that it was not an easy way to live, and you could never be sure where your next meal was coming from.
Leechcraft looked at her, grinning. "But with your help, missy, I can make this junk fly off the shelves faster than they can get their bits out of their purses. Heck, I might be able t'skip the Everfree Forest altogether, jus' sell whatever I find!"
Trixie smirked herself, masking her eagerness at the proposal. A chance to use her magic and exercise her skills in stretching the truth again was just what she was after. Even if it meant putting up with the minor inconvenience of acting as 'sidekick' to a quack of a salesman, it was better than having to face the shackles of employment.
"Of course, I'll require food and lodging."
Leechcraft bowed low. "My caravan is yours, missy. I rather sleep outside anyway. Grass an' earth is better than any bed I've ever had." Trixie picked herself up and immediately set to re-arranging the meagre furniture to her liking. Leechcraft looked at her glowing horn for a moment, and, avoiding the levitating mats and table, picked up his hat from the stand. He flicked his head sideways and flung the hat at Trixie, it landing slightly skewiff, and being too large for her, slipped over her eyes. Her concentration once more broken, the furniture fell to the floor, sending the tray and Leechcraft's empty cup flying.
Trixie, barely containing herself, lifted the hat from her head. "And what was that for?" She spat through gritted teeth. Leechcraft was stifling a laugh.
"Well now, missy, I was thinkin', with you lightnin' up like Celestia durin' the Summer Sun Celebration every time you're doin' something with your magic, they're sure to catch on quick. So, you'll be needin' a hat." Leechcraft said, trying hard not to let any trace of mirth into his voice.
Trixie held the hat in front of her with her magic. She looked hard at it for a moment, and placed it back on her head, with great ceremony, tilting it back so it rested over her horn, but didn't slip over her eyes. She levitated the small shaving mirror out of her satchel and looked at herself in it.
"Tie my hair back and I'd look like that farm filly with the fancy rope tricks."She thought to herself, moving the mirror around to examine every angle. She was forced to admit that it didn't look too bad, as a replacement for her old conical hat. Besides, every magician needed her props.
"It's the wrong colour. I'll need a white one." She said, matter-of-factly, not looking up from the mirror.
"Well, I've known you barely an hour an' you've already taken over my house, so Hay, let's spring for a new hat." Leechcraft replied, clearly finding the situation deeply amusing despite his best attempts at remaining stoic. "I did pretty well at my last stop, so I got enough bits. 'Sides, the tailor here knows me. I can probably get a discount. Let's wait 'til later, mind, when the crowd out there don't wanna lynch me no more." Leechcraft grinned.
Trixie and Leechcraft spent the remainder of the morning and the early afternoon mostly in silence. Both were so used to living by themselves that they felt no need to make conversation beyond simple statements, responses and requests. They shared a meagre lunch, and Trixie forced herself to drink another cup of Leechcraft's cordial. She found the taste beginning to grow on her, but it was still an effort to swallow it.
Leechcraft finished putting the plates back into a small cupboard with one door missing built into the side of the caravan, and took a glance out through the equally small, scratched window.
"All clear. Guess most people are out tendin' to th'orchard. Come on then, now or never." He stepped out of the caravan and held the door open until Trixie had followed. She didn't thank him, not that he really expected her to. He led the way up the main street, ignoring the glares and glances from any ponies still outside. He walked straight past the clothes store with its large wooden sign swinging in the light wind. Trixie looked up at the sign and stopped in front of the store, staring after Leechcraft.
"I thought you said we were going to the-" She began, but realised that Leechcraft had no intention of stopping, and for that matter, wasn't listening. Taking a deep breath, she stopped herself from yelling after him and making a scene, and trotted quickly to catch up. Leechcraft turned a corner into an alleyway off the main street, and when Trixie caught up with him, he was standing by the store's side entrance, smirking. He took in Trixie's glare and rolled his shoulders in the equivalent of a shrug.
"After this mornin', I don't think folk'd take too kindly to me jus' walkin' in the front door." He offered by way of explanation. "Besides, like I said, I know th'gal here. Jus' watch." He raised a hoof and knocked gently on the door, then stood back. After a few seconds of silence, the door swung open, revealing a plumper, older mare in a bonnet and sporting a pair of glasses balanced on her muzzle. She narrowed her eyes at Leechcraft, and adjusted her glasses with her hoof. He grinned at her. Slowly her glare gave way to a smirk, followed by a smile.
"Leechcraft, y'old villain. What brings yer round 'ere this time? In trouble with Silverstar? I tell yer, if you try an' hide in my dressin' rooms again like th'last time he hounded you out I ain't gonna hold him back!" She glanced aside and suddenly noticed Trixie, a mixed expression of annoyance and amusement across her features.
"Well, who's this fine young filly you've picked up? Looks like a city girl t'me." She smiled at Trixie, who was taken aback by the sudden implication that she was involvedwith the 'Doctor' and, for once, at a loss for words. Leechcraft stepped between them before Trixie had a chance to regain her wits and temper.
"Uh, it's nothin' like that, Charity. She's jus' agreed to help me with my work is all, an' I thought I'd buy her a hat as a token of appreciation." He said, smiling disarmingly and taking a backward glance at Trixie.
The seamstress, Charity, looked at the pair and rolled her eyes. "Well, it ain't my place to pry. Come on in, little missy, lets get yer measured up. Been a while since I had city-folk drop by here." She said, backing up and letting Trixie and Leechcraft in, and closing the door behind them.
Trixie took a look around the room while Charity went to fetch her measuring tape. It was practical and no-nonsense, like the rest of Appleloosa, consisting of barely more than the plain wooden floors and walls. They were in the storeroom behind the shopfront, as she could tell by the racks of cloth and clothes strewn haphazardly around the available space. She turned to face Leechcraft, who was staring at his hooves.
"What was that about the 'last time' you were 'hounded out' of Appleloosa?" She said with a smirk. Leechcraft shot her a glare.
"T'ain't the first time I've been here, y'know. An' last time they got the Sheriff involved."
"You're not one to learn a lesson, are you?" She asked, not expecting a reply. An unbidden thought emerged in her mind that the question could just as easily be applied to her. Leechcraft opened his mouth and was about to deliver a snappy comeback when Charity returned. She wasted no time with idle chatter and immediately set to measuring Trixie's head to find a fitting hat.
"The problem with you unicorns is that horn. It's nearly impossible to make a decent hat that fits over it." She mumbled, pencil between teeth, while writing down measurements. She adjusted her glasses again and peered at the numbers.
"Ah, yer in luck. Think I got jus' the thing." She said, whipping the tape off Trixie's head and rushing back into the shopfront. She returned half a minute later with a large white hat, with a high crown and a wide brim. She held it out towards Trixie on the end of her hoof.
"We call it the 'Boss of the Orchard'. S'new style, imported from Fillydelphia, colt named Studson designed it fer us settler ponies out here in Appleloosa an' the other new towns 'round 'ere. I think this'll suit yer right down t'the ground. Hide that horn of yours too." Charity winked at Leechcraft. "Don't think I 'adn't guessed. Unicorn comes into town an' next day she's at my door with you,of all ponies. I thought t'myself: 'He's up t'somethin'' soon as I saw yer."
Leechcraft put on his best look of feigning ignorance and innocence. Trixie levitated the hat off Charity's hoof and placed it on her head, turning to admire herself in the mirror. Now that she finally had a chance to look at herself in a full-length mirror, she realised what a mess she looked. Her coat was mussed up and her mane knotty, having been left to dry naturally after the rain. Her quick combing when she'd got up earlier that morning hadn't had much of an effect. On the other hoof, the hat was perfect. It rested just above her eyes, shielding much of her face if she looked down, and the high crown of the design served to hide her horn without the hat getting caught on it, as so often happened with headwear designed for Earth Ponies. She picked up the mirror with her magic and gently swivelled it around herself so she could see herself from every angle. It reminded her of the time, long ago, when she had bought her original hat and matching cape from a boutique in the city. Then she'd been The Great and Powerful Trixie. Now? Well, she wasn't sure what she was now, but the title didn't seem as apt without the wizardly get-up.
She took another glance at the mirror and smiled.
'Doctor' Trixie would do.